Nasreen Munni Kabeer tells Verve how she got the deeply private and shy music legend to speak up in her book, A R Rahman The Spirit Of Music
The idea behind the book
I had suggested the book to AR about eight years ago, but when he said yes, I thought it was better that we wait because he was too young and hadnít enough years of work behind him. The actual work started three years ago. Whenever and wherever (London, Toronto, Chennai) we got the chance, we would talk and record the conversation. Then I compiled those 20-30 hours, typed them all up and we further elaborated on points that seemed necessary to develop. Skype was a great means of communication too!
Getting him to speak candidly
Time is a key factor in building trust. Feeling comfortable with someone in different situations helps too Ė I had done two documentaries on Bombay Dreams and the stage version of The Lord Of The Rings, so I was part of his working environment. This perhaps helped him to open up. The difference of an interview and a biographical conversation is that an interview often talks about the Ďhere and nowí whereas the aim of the book was to get a wider sweep of ARís life and thinking.
Choosing the author
He said he liked my work, my books and documentaries. And I suppose he could see my intention. I deeply believed in recording the work of film artistes for future students of cinema and was not doing it to advance my career.
Working with him was an adventure. I went to see him once in London and he didnít feel like working and said letís go and see a Bond movie; so Indian cinema archiving was left on hold while we went to see Quantum of Solace. The film had little solace and only a quantum of interest!
AR, the legend
Over the years, the core person, the one who has great humility and old world values, hasnít changed. His keenness to keep pushing the boundaries of whatís possible in music is also in great evidence despite all the success. He isnít a negative person and always hopeful that things will turn out well. He never gossips or says anything negative about anyone. I admire his humility and the fact that he doesnít have a monster ego. I also like his laugh. Itís interesting but both Lataji and AR have a child-like laugh, They started working young, became the sole family breadwinners, and so obviously they didnít have a carefree childhood. Perhaps that is why they have retained that innocence and it comes out in their laughter.
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